University of New Mexico men’s basketball coach Richard Pitino will not be on the sideline for Saturday night’s Lobo basketball game against Utah State after testing positive for COVID-19.
As of early afternoon Saturday, the game (6 p.m., CBS Sports Network, 770 AM/96.3 FM) was still on; no other players or staff in the Lobo program had tested positive.
The Journal has learned Pitino took a COVID test independent of the team once he started feeling symptoms. He had been with the team as recently as Friday.
The entire Lobo basketball team and coaching staff has been vaccinated, UNM has reported.
Assistant coach Eric Brown will step as acting coach for Saturday’s Mountain West Conference home opener between the Lobos (7-7, 0-1) and the Aggies (9-5, 0-1).
It is the first conference home game for UNM since Feb. 29, 2020 — a span of 679 days. That game was a 66-64 win over Utah State in the Pit.
The Lobos’ next scheduled game is set for Tuesday at UNLV. Mountain West and NCAA protocols suggest Pitino would have to miss that as well due to a five-day isolation period after a positive test.
All of college basketball, the Mountain West Conference included, has been hit hard in the past two weeks by COVID-19 cases leading to game postponements, even among vaccinated programs, as the omicron variant has surged nationwide.
The Lobos’ Mountain West home opener was supposed to be Dec. 28 against No. 20 Colorado State, but too many players in the Rams’ program had positive COVID cases to play the game, which has postponed indefinitely. Based on conference policy, both teams will attempt to make the game up. If that can’t happen, it will be deemed no contest.
The Mountain West on Thursday adopted new NCAA safety guidelines reducing from 10 the days of isolation and separation from basketball activities